Half-cocked: NYC mayor investigates gun purchases – in Arizona

There’s little doubt that NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg is one of the top commanders of the Nanny State brigade. After literally buying his way into Gracie Mansion, Bloomberg has left little in the way of daily life untouched by NY nanny-statism (more here).

He’s added laws to the books that fine storeowners for having too many letters in their awnings, or ticket cars that are rendered immobile by snowstorms. And don’t even think about lighting up in a bar, sitting on a milk crate, or putting your bag down on the adjoining subway seat. The kind of velvet fascism that rules American corporate culture now rules Gotham, a city once celebrated for its louche glamour and gritty countercultural style, something many puritans wrongly misremember as being only coexistent with rampant crime.

Bloomberg is also one of the nation’s leading advocates of strict gun control policies because, you know, if we disarm the public, everyone will be safer. After all, everyone knows that criminals obey gun laws – right? He has long been an outspoken critic of “lax” gun laws in neighboring states – blaming them for the proliferation of guns in NYC. To prove his point about this, Bloomberg has sent “investigators,” paid by NY City, to make gun purchases at various locations – particularly gun shows in nearby states which do not require FBI background checks for private gun sales. While it may make some sense for someone to drive from NYC to Virginia or North Carolina to purchase a gun, Bloomberg’s latest foray is nothing but over-the-top grandstanding (story here).

Weeks after the shooting in Tucson, sellers at an Arizona gun show allowed undercover investigators hired by New York City to buy semiautomatic pistols even after they said they probably couldn’t pass a background check, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.

“After Tucson, you would think that people, particularly at a gun show in Arizona, would have been much more careful in enforcing the law,” he said. “That unfortunately in some cases wasn’t the case.”

Bloomberg has authorized similar sting operations around the country as part of a push for tougher federal laws to help keep guns off the streets of New York.

But in the sensitive aftermath of the shooting Jan. 8 that killed six people and critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the mayor was questioned about the time and place of his hidden-camera investigation, a $100,000 operation conducted almost clear across the country.

“Let me get this straight: From New York City, they are going to send people to Arizona to look into this?” said state Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican. “They might take a look a little closer to home if they are concerned about guns getting in their state.”

Jim Cavanaugh, a retired agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, where he was in charge of the Nashville division, said he didn’t believe the sales described by the mayor were, in fact, illegal.

“It’s not a prosecutable offense” because the purchasers were not truly felons, minors or drug abusers and because they didn’t tell the sellers definitively that they were, Cavanaugh said. As for Bloomberg, he said, “ATF has asked him not to do it and to please coordinate with ATF if he thinks a violation is occurring.”

In 2007, the U.S. Justice Department warned in a letter to City Hall that such civilian operations risk “legal liabilities” and can “unintentionally interrupt or jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations.”

NYC to Phoenix, AZ – 2452 miles. Not exactly a day trip. So what’s this nonsense really about? Publicity for his cause.

The mayor conceded that most illegal guns in New York City are coming from states along the East Coast, but said the rampage in Tucson would bring national attention to the investigation.

The city-hired investigators also obtained a Glock gun and 33-round extended magazine similar to those authorities have said Jared Loughner used to open fire as Giffords met with constituents outside a supermarket.

Investigators have said Loughner legally purchased his ammunition the morning of the attack. He had cleared a federal background check and legally bought a Glock 19 at a big-box sporting goods store two months earlier.

So the whole point of this stunt is undermined by the fact that the Tucson gunman broke no federal or state laws and had actually cleared an FBI background check. Way to go Mike, now you’ve pissed off the toughest sheriff in the country to boot (more here).

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is grumbling about Mayor Bloomberg’s undercover sting. He says his office wasn’t notified about the operation — and he’s taking aim at Bloomberg via Twitter.Arpaio tweeted about sending deputies to New York City to check out their gun and immigration laws. He also called out Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

“Where’s the coordination with this mayor flooding this area with investigators, paid by him or the City Council in New York?” Arpaio told FOX 10.

“I wonder if he got in touch with his buddy here the Mayor of Phoenix… I’ll be glad to send my volunteer posse or my people into New York to determine his problems that he has, so why is he worried about Arizona? We have good weapon laws; every citizen has the right to possess guns, so why is he concerned about it?”

Attorney General Tom Horne is blasting Bloomberg, calling the investigation nothing more than a publicity stunt.

The Phoenix Police Department told FOX 10 it was unaware of the sting.

Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris said, “I think it was a little bit unfair to the city of Phoenix. To try to make an assumption or comparison that the tragedy down in Tucson had something to do with not doing background checks at a gun show, that there’s a correlation there, I don’t see that. The gun involved in the Tucson incident was purchased legally at a gun store.”

With a huge budget deficit, failing schools and crumbling infrastructure, mayor “No Salt” should probably direct his attention to issues closer to home. There must be some more things like “distracted walking” he needs to protect NYers from.

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